Janet Sturtz Named 2020 HGH 'Nightingale Nurse of Year'

Famed nurse Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in infection prevention, so it was only fitting that during the COVID-19 pandemic, HGH’s Infection Preventionist should become her namesake.

Janet Sturtz, RN, was named the 2020 “Nightingale Nurse of the Year” on Tuesday, May 12, the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

HGH Interim CEO Karen Cole told staff and community members gathered during a video conference celebration that Nightingale dealt with filth, food and supply shortages, and animosity from those who resented her leadership; still, said Cole, “for the sick, she wanted the best; she wasn’t afraid to speak up.”

HGH Chief Nursing Officer Leeann Cushway led the awards ceremony, which recognized 21 nursing leaders and staff at Humboldt General Hospital for that kind of leadership.

“You are the ones who are caring for patients,” Cushway told the nurses, “you are the ones on the front lines, and we want you to know we appreciate everything you do.”

Sturtz was chosen for the “Nightingale” honor following an online process that allowed patients, community residents and staff members to weigh in on the decision.

The result was a welcome 80 nominations that singled out the nursing professionals for their compassionate and quality nursing care.

Cushway presented Sturtz with a plaque memorializing the nursing honor, a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a stethoscope specially engraved with Sturtz’s name.

Co-nominees, including Angelia Arenas, Denice Bauer, Heather Beach, Adriana Calderon, Marlen Diaz, Robyn Dunckhorst, Vai Fuli, Erin Gallegos, Yolanda Gardner, Adilene Gomez, Candice Hotz, Hannah Kohler, Shannon Leibfried, Tiffany Love, Kristin Pointon, Monica Sartor, Kayhlin Sorenson, Angela Street and Tina Wilson, were each honored with small gifts and copies of their individual nominations.

Sturtz’s nominations painted a picture of a nurse who exemplifies HGH’s core values.

“Since the whole pandemic started, Janet has been on the front line fighting to get all of us the information that we needed,” wrote one nominator. “I have seen her never-ending compassion to reach out to all the positive COVID patients and family with the utmost respect and patience to make sure that they all understand what they need to do to remain safe.”

Nominators also touched on Sturtz’s competency, in learning and relaying everything she could about COVID-19; on Sturtz’s professionalism in offering calm and reassurance during periods of high stress and long hours; of Sturtz’s teamwork, in ensuring inclusion of all staff in recommendations and trainings; on Sturtz’s quality work, in doing her job with precision and excellence; and on Sturtz’s dedication, in working long hours seven days a week to ensure the correct collection and follow-up for COVID-19 specimens.

“We would have been lost [without Janet] during this pandemic,” wrote one nominator. “She has been such a reassurance . . . in this time of crisis.”

Cushway surprised staff this year by also presenting a new award—the HGH “Inspiring Nurse Leader”—to HGH Inpatient Manager Bertha Higbee, RN.

Cushway said Higbee’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has been inspiring in every way, for physicians, staff and patients. Higbee also received a plaque and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Florence Nightingale was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician who came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War where she tended to wounded soldiers. Nightingale was dubbed “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds at night.

Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King's College London. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honor, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.

The HGH “Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award” was created to recognize nurses who, like Nightingale, go above and beyond, especially in their care of patients.

This is the 10th year for the HGH Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award. Past recipients include Diane Nevis, LPN; Pam Ruark, RN; Robyn Dunckhorst RN; Michelle Chadwell, RN; Bertha Higbee, RN; Tina Wilson, RN; Rita Clement, RN; Kathryn Ourada, RN; and, Darlene Bryan, RN.

A wall display in the HGH lobby explains the award and honors past and present recipients.